It should come as no surprise that the Twin Cities, in all of their outdoorsy glory, are surrounded by tons of camping spots. So, go ahead — extend your day trip to beautiful lakes and hiking trails by pitching a tent and spending the night. Fall asleep to the sounds of wildlife, wake up to birds chirping, and repeat. It doesn’t get much better than that, huh?
Before the frigid Midwest winter rolls in, make a plan to visit one of these camping destinations. You won’t regret it!
Cleary Lake Regional Park
At Cleary Lake, you can get your campin’ on, Gilligan’s Island-style. But really, you can spend the night on an island on the lake that’s only accessible by boat! No boat? No problem. Choose a site on the two other campgrounds in the park. With a playground, fishing pier, about six miles of hiking trails, a swimming beach, and an off-leash dog park, Cleary has something for the whole family. Fitt Tip: only 22 campsites are available, so make your reservations early!
Afton State Park
Attention St. Paul folks: this gorgeous campsite is only 30 miles away! For a camping spot with a view, pitch your tent on one of the overlooks of the St. Croix River Valley. Or make your way to a more remote hike-in site above the ravines in the open grasses. Get lost in the prairie lands by day, and fall asleep under the stars by night. If you’re looking for the quintessential rugged camping experience, book a backpack camping site, but if you’re really not, know that they have pretty sweet yurt rentals too.
Bunker Hills Regional Park
Got kids who love the water? Head up to the northern suburbs for a weekend at Bunker Hills. Set up camp in the park and make the quarter-mile trek to the Bunker Beach Water Park. After a day of fun for the whole fam (adults can go on the water slides, too!), head back to your tent to spend the night al fresco. All in, it’s a perfect place to introduce your little ones (or non-outdoorsy friends) to the great outdoors!
Lake Maria State Park
Lake Maria is southern Minnesota’s finest, and the spot to be during the fall when what remains of the “Big Woods” change to deep orange and red. If you’re looking for over 15 miles of hiking trails, and secluded backpack campsites or cabins for all your friends, you’ve found it! Each site has access to restrooms and fire pits. Plus, you’ll never be too far from small lakes and ponds — as if your surroundings weren’t dreamy enough!
Lebanon Hills Regional Park
Escape to nature in no time by making the short drive to Eagan to visit Lebanon Hills Regional Park. This site offers almost 2,000 acres of pure outdoorsy goodness, just under 20 miles from the center of Minneapolis. Wear yourself out on 13 miles of hiking trails, 12 miles of mountain bike paths, and the 2.5-mile canoe route. Wind down with s’mores over an open flame before settling into your tent. Plus, with a camp store and onsite caretakers, this is one of the best-kept sites in the area!
Baker Park Reserve
For those of you who fancy a more “glamping” atmosphere, Baker Park is the spot for you. Here, you’ll find camper cabins that sleep five-to-six people with all of the works. Think screened porches, tables, electricity, and heat. Both the cabins and the traditional campground on site have access to restrooms, showers, and electrical hookups. The best part? You can visit Baker all year round — get your heart rate up with swimming on Lake Independence in the summer and cross-country skiing in the winter.
Lake Elmo Park Reserve
Lake Elmo offers the biggest variety of camping options in the metro area. Rustic grounds with water from a hand pump, no electricity, and no toilets, or modern sites with electricity, flush toilets, and hot showers are available. Whatever suits your fancy, this 2,165-acre park has it all! Spend the day on the mountain bike trails, grill some sausages for dinner, and finish the day at the swimming pond as the sun sets.
William O’Brien State Park
Scenic river views AND Wi-Fi at their Savanna Campground? What a concept! For those of you who want to get away, but need to stay connected for work or family, William O’Brien is your place. Check your email over a morning cup of coffee before unplugging and kayaking on the St. Croix River. This site comes with another major bonus: free stuff! Borrow fishing poles, horseshoes, soccer balls, and more from the park office for a day of fun at no extra cost.
Carver Park Reserve
No glamping here! Carver Park Reserve offers authentic camping experiences, with 57 sites on the Lake Auburn campground. But what Carver Park Reserve lacks in showers and electricity, it makes up for in outdoor activities. You can bike, hike, ride horses, fish, and visit the Grimm Farm Historic Site, also known as the birthplace of the Dairy Belt. The rugged outdoors with a side of history? Count us in!
Nerstrand Big Woods State Park
Nerstrand is another spot to see the last remaining trees of the historic Minnesota “Big Woods”. Naturally, you’ll want to set up camp here during the fall. Take in the gorgeous autumn colors and prairie grasses as you walk around the grounds. And be sure to stop by the Hidden Falls on your way back to the drive-in or walk-in campsite!